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Remaking the American Mainstream

Remaking the American Mainstream

Assimilation and Contemporary Immigration

Richard Alba, Victor Nee

ISBN 9780674020115

Publication date: 07/01/2009

In this age of multicultural democracy, the idea of assimilation--that the social distance separating immigrants and their children from the mainstream of American society closes over time--seems outdated and, in some forms, even offensive. But as Richard Alba and Victor Nee show in the first systematic treatment of assimilation since the mid-1960s, it continues to shape the immigrant experience, even though the geography of immigration has shifted from Europe to Asia, Africa, and Latin America. Institutional changes, from civil rights legislation to immigration law, have provided a more favorable environment for nonwhite immigrants and their children than in the past.

Assimilation is still driven, in claim, by the decisions of immigrants and the second generation to improve their social and material circumstances in America. But they also show that immigrants, historically and today, have profoundly changed our mainstream society and culture in the process of becoming Americans.

Surveying a variety of domains--language, socioeconomic attachments, residential patterns, and intermarriage--they demonstrate the continuing importance of assimilation in American life. And they predict that it will blur the boundaries among the major, racially defined populations, as nonwhites and Hispanics are increasingly incorporated into the mainstream.


  • Alba and Nee have written a carefully theorized, thoughtfully argued, and empirically well-grounded book. They demonstrate persuasively that the so-called "new" immigration is not terribly different from previous ones, and that most of the descendants of today's Hispanic, Asian, and other newcomers are assimilating in much the same way as the children and grandchildren of the European immigration. Their contribution to our understanding of immigration, ethnicity and race should be read far beyond the worlds of social science scholarship.

    —Herbert J. Gans, author of Democracy and the News


  • 2004, Winner of the Thomas and Znaniecki Book Award


  • Richard Alba is Distinguished Professor of Sociology, the Graduate Center, City University of New York.
  • Victor Nee is the Frank and Rosa Rhodes Professor at Cornell University, and Director of the Center for the Study of Economy and Society.

Book Details

  • Harvard University Press

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